So, you’ve finally completed the first draft of your book after months (or perhaps years) of hard work, self-doubt, and resilience. That’s a huge achievement worthy of celebrations. But does it mean your book is ready for publishing? Not quite. At least not if you want your writing to really shine.
The truth is, no matter how well you write, you eventually become blind to your own piece of writing. You can easily miss flaws, small or significant ones, that are obvious to somebody else. Hiring a skilled editor is an investment worth making if you want your book to ooze professionalism – from the first page to the last.
We’ve put together this guide to teach you about what an editor does, why you need one, and most importantly – how you can find one that fits your budget and needs. Let’s dive in!
Here's what you need to know about finding a great book editor:
- What does a book editor do?
- Do I need a book editor?
- How much will a good book editor cost?
- Where to find a book editor
What does a book editor do?
A book editor is a professional who reads manuscripts to improve the writing, suggesting and applying necessary changes. Depending on their specific expertise, they’ll focus on different areas. But the goal is to polish your work into a high-quality, professional book ready for publishing.
Book editors aren’t there to take over or to write your book for you. Their job is to help you create the book you aim for by guiding you in the right direction. They can do this in many ways, and different editing types often overlap.
- Related: How to Edit a Book
This type of editor focuses on the big picture rather than fine details. Their job includes reading through the entire manuscript and letting you know what works and what doesn’t. Developmental editing is useful in the writing process for both fiction and non-fiction writers, helping you find issues in your writing’s overall structure. It can mean shifting chapters around or deleting some of them.
After submitting your work to a developmental editor, they’ll review and write what is known as an ‘editorial letter,’ a summary of the flaws they’ve found in your book. This editor should come in before working on the details since this may lead to a few rewrites. At this point, it’s about hitting the mark with the story and finding the right direction.
A structural editor focuses on the narrative structure, helping you find one that suits the type of story you’re telling. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, your book needs a solid structure to hold together. Good storytelling means presenting the plot and story elements so that readers understand what’s happening while keeping their interest piqued by not giving too much away.
Structural editors will look at the introduction, rising action, climax, resolution, etc. They may also consider the length of chapters, the timeline of your narrative (whether it’s linear or non-linear, i.e., has flashbacks) and suggest changes accordingly.
- Related: How to Write a Novel
A line editor does what it sounds like – they look at your book line by line and analyze each sentence. They consider word choice, syntax, and flow to ensure that sentences are as sharp as possible.
By looking at what you emanate with your word choices, they can help you find other words that are more accurate and precise. Or perhaps a sentence needs tightening to create a better flow? A line editor will focus on elevating your writing by making it sharp and clear.
Copyediting can often be confused with line editing since they go hand in hand. However, line editing is a slightly more in-depth and analytical type of editing. While a line editor looks at the style, a copyeditor focuses on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
They fix all the mechanical errors to polish your writing, ensuring your language follows the rules and sticks to the house style guide. However, they don’t analyze sentences to improve voice or style. Copyediting typically comes into play after line editing, and it’s usually the least expensive form.
Proofreading is the final step in the editing process before a book is ready for publishing. At this stage, the focus is on technical errors such as typos and punctuation mistakes, formatting issues, and other inconsistencies.
Quite often, copyediting and proofreading will be folded into one step and provided by the same person. Depending on your skills (and budget), you can also choose to proofread yourself. Either way, it’s an essential part of editing for any texts shared with an audience.
Do I need a book editor?
At a traditional publishing house, a book will go through many rounds of edits before going to print. But if you choose to self-publish, you won’t have the benefit of working with a company that has your best interest at heart. So, even more reason to find a good editor before putting your book out there.
Not only can an editor discover flaws and enhance your writing, but they can also guide you through what works or doesn’t work in a particular industry/genre. That kind of guidance is valuable if it’s your first time self-publishing a book. Basically, they help you avoid making rookie mistakes before your book is published. The bottom line is that you’re more likely to sell more with an improved product. And that’s why you should invest in an editor.
What about a beta reader?
Beta readers are great if you want to get some general feedback from a ‘normal reader.’ However, they are not the same as a professional editor. You could have a trusted friend or family member read your first draft, but you can’t expect the same results as you get from an editing service. An editor is impartial, objective, and has the knowledge to improve your writing and polish your work.
How much will a good book editor cost?
First of all, how much you’ll pay depends on the type of editor you’re hiring. Generally, developmental editing is more expensive, while copyediting or proofreading is cheaper. Although that’s only a rule of thumb, prices vary depending on experience and skill. We advise you to be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. Because like other industries, you get what you pay for.
In most cases, editors will charge per word or page. Some may choose to charge per hour, but it’s rare. How much you’ll pay for an editor depends on a few other factors, such as:
- The length of your book.
- The complexity of your industry and the level of technical knowledge required.
- Your timeframe – how quickly you want your book published.
- Your flexibility regarding schedule and timeframe.
- Your experience as a writer, i.e., how much editing work is needed?
- Your editor’s experience (the more experienced, the higher they can charge).
With the industry standard of 250 words per page and with the assumption of your book being only 100 pages long, here are some price ranges you can expect. These figures are based on a survey by the Editorial Freelancers Association.
- Proofreading, nonfiction $500 to $725
- Proofreading, business/sales $1,000 to $1,225
- Copyediting, nonfiction $750 to $975
- Copyediting, business/sales $1,000 to $1,225
- Developmental editing, nonfiction $1,000 to $1,225
- Developmental editing, business/sales $1,750 to $1,975
Tips for how to reduce editing costs
Hiring an editor isn’t cheap. But it’s money well spent if you’re serious about writing a book that many people will read and appreciate. In saying that, you can do things to keep the costs down as much as possible. The trick is to cut down the amount of time your editor needs to spend on your book. Because we all know that time is money.
- Use free tools. Tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid can help correct your spelling and grammar. You can use both of them for free in trials. However, the paid versions are very affordable and can save you money in the long run. But remember that no automated tool is perfect; some mistakes can only be picked up by the human eye.
- Proofread yourself. When you’re finished, take a break from your manuscript. Then proofread it yourself, paying close attention to details. You’re looking for obvious flaws and spelling/grammar mistakes. A good tip is also to read backward since this forces your brain to focus on each word.
- Plan before you write. By having a synopsis and a plan in place, you can save your editorial or structural editor lots of time. If you know what you want to cover and in which order, they probably won’t have to shuffle sections around as much.
Remember to ask questions about what specific services they provide, ask for references, professional training or education, and what they charge. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to more than one editor before making your decision. It’s your book, and you’re the one who’s in charge.
Where to find a book editor
Alright, we’ve covered the why, the what, and the how – the next logical question is where. Where do you find a book editor? Well, you could easily spend hours googling, comparing, and searching for the right one. And you absolutely should do your research since an editing service is a significant investment.
To make your job a bit easier (and save you hours of googling), we’ve put together a list of excellent editing services. It’s the perfect place to start your research and point you in the right direction. Do you have any questions or thoughts on book editing? Leave a comment below.
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